Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pot Calls Kettle Black

I’d like to think that in the old days of responsible journalism, more of a point would have been made of the hypocrisy of Barack Obama lecturing Raul Castro of Cuba about human rights.

Even as the American president blathered his false pieties in Havana, just 500 miles away, at the other end of the same island, an abject community of United States political prisoners was enduring torture and incarceration without trial at the Guantanamo military base prison Obama had promised eight years ago he would close.

Castro’s protestation that his government has no political prisoners may ring hollow in our ears, but however unjustly Cuba may treat its dissidents, the magnitude of its human rights violations is minuscule compared to the United States.  America’s human rights record is among the poorest in the civilized world.

Consider China, another country our government has criticized for alleged human rights violations.  China’s population is almost five times greater than that of the U.S. Yet the number of prisoners in U.S. jails is far greater than the number incarcerated in all of China.  

Our prison population of 2.2 million is by far the world’s largest, nearly equaling the number in Soviet prisons at the height of the Gulag terror.  An enormously disproportionate percentage of the U.S. prison population is African-American or Hispanic — a clear reflection of American racism.

Rape, torture, hunger and endless years of solitary confinement are commonplace in United States prisons.

It is also commonplace to jail Americans for telling the truth to their fellow citizens.  Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning is but one case in point.  People of color have almost no chance of overturning unjust convictions in the United States.  Seven presidents have refused to pardon Leonard Peltier, a native American whose supporters have produced reams of evidence that he is not guilty of the murders for which he was sent to prison in 1974.

Most Americans are unfamiliar with the names and case histories of the dozens of political prisoners unjustly imprisoned in their country — some for 40 or more years.  

Mumia Abu Jamal, Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez), Ricardo Palmera, Russell Maroon Shoats,Veronza Bowers, Ed Poindexter , Mondo we Langa, Mekou Kambul, Robert King, Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace, Mohammad El-Mezain, Abdulrahman Odeh, Mufid Abdulqade, Jeremy Hammond, Brent Betterly, Jared Chase,  Brian Church, Eric McDavid, Marie Mason, Herman Bell, Romaine (Chip) Fitzgerald,  Ed Poindexter — these are not names you often see in your newspapers and magazines, or hear broadcast on what passes for “news” on TV.

But they have been jailed for being active in radical social movements, for exercising what courts have deemed to be “free speech.”  They are victims of corrupt evidence, coerced testimony, incompetent defense lawyers, prosecutorial misconduct.  Their appeals go unheard, their human stories obscured. Their human rights have been trampled and probably never will be restored.

And yet our president dares to question the record of another country’s head of state on human rights. Have we no shame at all?

The Nevermore Nation

Since being taken over b\y its most extreme right wing elements, the Republican party has undertaken to remake the democratic republic the founders gave us into something Dr. Franklin and his peers would not recognize: a people-hating oligarchy of corporate monsters.

They love to cite the Constitution even while smashing it to smithereens.  (Remember the smarmy Illinois congressman, during the attempt to impeach President Clinton?  “We may be an itch, but we are a constiTOOshunal itch.” A singular addition to the congressional hall of shame.)

Now the Senate Republicans — including most of the 47 who committed treason with their seditious letter to Iran on the nuclear negotiations — have decided that the Constitution really doesn’t say that Presidents nominate federal judges and the Senate votes either to confirm or not to confirm them.  It might seem to say that but what it really means, according to the new Republican orthodoxy, is that presidents in the last year or two of their terms aren’t really presidents, cannot legally conduct any of the affairs of the presidency, and are mandated to just twiddle their thumbs until the next president is elected. And if the next president is not a Republican, these idiots will find some new “constiTOOshunal” grounds for obstructing everything the elected leader of the country proposes.

This came to pass in part because the current president chose to be Dr. Kidglove and attempt to negotiate the rules of the asylum with the inmates. And because his partisans in the congress lacked the courage and the wit to fight the obstructionists with all of the real constitutional tools in their shop.  The more they got away with, the more depredations the right wingnuts of congress committed in the name of the “constiTOOshun.”  The game’s over now.  The government doesn’t function.

Things will only get worse, unless what now seems extremely unlikely happens.  That is, if Sen. Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, and then wins the general election, and his party regains control of at least the Senate, if not also the House of Representatives.

A more likely outcome is a November contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which is really no choice at all.  Ms. Clinton has more blood on her hands than any presidential aspirant in our history.  Trump is the most dangerous kind of imbecile, one who thinks he is intelligent.  Either would be an unmitigated disaster in the White House, for different reasons, perhaps, but does it really matter which iceberg sinks the ship?  

Whomever we elect in November, that person will place a hand on a Holy Bible and solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

As if it still existed.